Trace Reddell – The Sound of Things to Come: An Audible History of the Science Fiction Film


Univ Of Minnesota Press, ISBN-13 978-0816683123, English, Spanish, 448 pages, 2018, USA

Beyond its obvious appeal to Science Fiction lovers and Science Fiction Studies, this book is a methodological investigation of tools and composition techniques used in Science Fiction films’ soundtracks. The book covers a vast historical period, moving from the introduction of film sound in the early 1920s through the introduction of digital processes in the 1980s. This covers thirty films in total including early theremin-based soundtracks, underground and blockbusters movies and more recent pure cult offerings, such as Maeck’s “Decoder”. Musique concrete; tape manipulations and sound collages; prepared instruments and unconventional sound editing techniques are explored for their ability to produce a desired ‘otherworldliness’. Science Fiction films are then examined as cinematic “research and development zones” for the quantity and quality of technical experiments and underlying innovation in induced perception. Reddell isolates three “tonal centers for psychotechnological attunement”: the ambient glide, the shimmering fringe and the sonic xenomorph, through which he dissects the chosen soundtracks. A landmark study in this field, it can be furtherly enjoyed through the author’s companion website (, with a pertinent small collection of audio mixes and posters.